Sunday, January 24, 2010

What I Learned at the Circus

I've been told that when elephants are very young, their owners tie them to a stake in the ground to keep them from escaping. Baby elephants can't budge the stake, no matter how hard they try.

A full grown elephant can easily dislodge the stake and walk away. Only they don't.

They don't because they believe they can't. Because they couldn't move the stake when they were young, they don't even try.

I have often felt like an elephant. There were lessons I learned when I was young that I believed to be true for all time. What I now call my character defects were "just who I am."

In Al-Anon I've learned that these things do not have to remain fixed. These character defects are simply self-defense mechanisms that have overshot the mark. I am stronger now, and I can pick up the stakes that have held me in place. Sometimes easily, sometimes not. But only if I try.


  1. That was a very good analogy Kathy, very close to the bone, indeed.
    What a liberation to realize it was something that caused us to be the way we are, and that we can change! : )
    I have managed to track down my behavior surprisingly to a person in my early life that had soo much influence on me, and although I am not sure he was an alcoholic (did he hide it) he certainly has all the trademarks. And how I tried to please him, and get his attention, I would do anything I could think of to be what I thought he wanted.
    And how liberating to realize the root, finally, after nearly 35 odd years. Phew! Thanks for sharing, once again.

  2. How I wonder what I could accomplish if only I knew what stakes in the ground were preventing me from doing what could easily be accomplished. Loved this blog.

    Thanks for all your kind comments on my blog.


  3. Wow, that was really an awesome metaphor for the powerless we carry with us from childhood. We don't know how powerful we really are unless we try...
    thanks for this, and thanks for stopping by my blog.

  4. Great way to describe the belief we are stuck with how it has always been. Maybe some of our survival tactics were necessary years ago but no longer needed. Good thing to release the bond and see how to move forward.

  5. Good one! I remember that "just the way I am". Really, it was just an excuse for bad behavior.

  6. i found your page by way of shen's blog, reunited selves, and i really like this post. i've always had a special place in my heart about elephants and have always found this story sad about how you can train elephants to not realize their power (i've heard that quality described for humans as "learned helplessness") and am well acquainted with this having also grown up in a home where alcoholism was a devastating problem.

    thank you for your blog~